EcoWaste Coalition Detects Lead in Some Christmas Ceramic Decors

Watch out for lead-glazed or lead-painted Christmas-themed ceramic ornaments, a toxics watchdog has warned.

The EcoWaste Coalition cautioned shoppers from buying ceramic yuletide decors that are not certified “toxic-free” after it detected lead and other chemicals of concern in nine out of 12 samples.

“Although made for ornamental purposes, lead-tainted Christmas figurines and related decors could end up in the hands of curious kids who love to play with colorful and nice-looking figures,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

As part of the group’s campaign for a toxics-free Christmas , the EcoWaste Coalition bought 12 affordable ceramic items bearing images of Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus and a yuletide tree.

The samples, costing P35 to P168 per piece, were purchased during the Undas break from bargain retailers at Monumento, Caloocan City, Quiapo and Divisoria, Manila, and Cubao and Mega Q-Mart, Quezon City.

Based on the screening done by the group on November 4, 2012 using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, lead up to 16,400 was detected in nine samples, way above the US limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for lead in paint.

None of the products indicated the use of lead glaze or lead paint, and none provided any lead warning.

Four items obtained from a retailer at Mega Q-Mart registered with the highest levels of lead:

1. A multipurpose container with Christmas tree had 16,400 ppm lead.
2. A Christmas tree simmering pot had 14,200 ppm lead.
3. A multipurpose container with Snowman had 11,500 ppm lead.
4. A Snowman simmering pot also had 11,500 ppm lead.

Significant amounts of lead, as well as antimony, arsenic and cadmium, were also found in a ceramic Christmas ball, toy shop figurine, a pair of red and white Snowman figures, and a Santa Claus statuette.

“While some may claim that a leaded ornament does not pose a considerable risk of lead exposure, we think it is always better to stay away from products containing lead, especially if there are safer substitutes around,” Dizon commented.

“Not patronizing leaded products also sends a clear message to the industry that we prefer safer products that will not jeopardize the health of our family,”he stated.

“Also, we do not want broken, chipped or unwanted stuff containing lead being thrown in waste disposal sites and adding to the chemical pollution there,” he added.

Lead is widely recognized as a chemical poison that harms the brain and the central nervous system.

Long-term effects of lead exposure include, among other things, mental retardation and other learning disabilities, language, speech and hearing disorders, attention deficit and other mental maladies, aggression and other behavioral challenges.